The University of Free State (UFS) planned to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court, spokesperson Lacea Loader said on July 22. This follows the Free State High Court’s verdict on the language policy on July 21. The court ruled in favor of AfriForum and has stopped UFS from implementing their planned language policy for 2017.
UFS’ language policy entailed English being the primary medium of instruction at undergraduate and postgraduate level. English would also become the primary formal language of university administration. The policy also supported multilingualism through the growing of the tutorial system.
AfriForum’s advocate Greta Engelbrecht argued that the university’s proposed 2017 language policy was unconstitutional because it hindered students from offering their vocational services in Afrikaans once they had obtained their degrees. She went on to say that “they [university] wish to shackle Afrikaans in its historical notion of oppression.”
Mixed reaction at UFS
The chasm that the language policy created between students last year seems to have deepened with the High Court’s latest verdict. Student opinion on the court’s decision varies. Some are in support of AfriForum and the court’s decision while others disagree with it or are apathetic towards the issue.
First year Law student Delicia Williams agrees with the court’s decision. Williams said the decision to drop Afrikaans was “unconstitutional because it goes against my rights as an Afrikaans speaking person. I have been taught in this language my whole life and to suddenly be taught in another language definitely goes against my rights.”
Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, disagreed with advocate Engelbrecht’s argument. They said that “There are 11 languages in our constitution; what’s unconstitutional is not having an inclusive space for all of them. This argument is ridiculous.”
Then there are some students who feel that the Language Policy issue is distracting the institution from other more pressing issues. Lindi Nhlapo, a third-year BCom student, feels this way and explained that “This isn’t something I want to devote my energy into anymore because it really feels like a losing battle. We have bigger issues to focus on like the hype of unemployment in our society.”
Written by: Tammy-Jane Fray